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The link between CO2 and big volcano eruptions

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 - 1:27pm
By:
Alan Flurry

Volcanologists from the University of Georgia and two Swiss universities found a link between carbon dioxide and the volume of gas trapped in magma, which could help predict the intensity and magnitude of a volcanic eruption. Higher levels of CO2, they found, lead to an increase in the total volume of gas in magma, which may result in violent, explosive eruptions.

The new findings could one day lead to better early-warning systems for people who live in the vicinity of volcanoes, though the study’s lead author, Mattia Pistone, cautioned that much additional work is needed for such a practical application.

Pistone, an assistant professor of geology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at UGA, worked with Luca Caricchi from the University of Geneva and Peter Ulmer from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology to determine the role that gas geochemistry plays in the volume of gas stored in magma by simulating what happens in magma chambers prior to volcanic eruptions.

“This produced a true, original result,” Pistone said. “If you have more CO2 in the magma, then that will increase the volume of gas stored in the magma. Adding more CO2 in the magma implies bad news in terms of volcanic hazard.”

Pistone and his fellow investigators formulated their research question after observing “strange” and unexpected data from a previous project, he said. The researchers compared CO2-rich magma with water-rich magma, observing that magma rich with CO2 led to an increased volume of gas stored in magma prior to volcanic eruptions.

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